Study finds young women had more strokes than men the same age

A young mother holds her hands over her head to appease a headache while her husband and daughter read on the couch in the background.

A study in Stroke finds women ages 25-44 are admitted to the hospital for ischemic strokes, the most common form of stroke that results from inadequate blood flow to the brain, at a higher rate compared to men the same age. These trends reversed between ages 45-74. Men and women ages 15-24 or ages 75 and older had the same number of strokes.

The research, supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, was led by researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The clinicians retrospectively analyzed 5.8 million private health insurance records between 2001-2014 and found 20,554 people had an ischemic stroke. The number of male and female stroke patients was equal. The average age was 63.

Researchers in Europe recently found younger women had higher stroke incidents compared to younger men, but the review in Stroke is the first to confirm similar trends in the U.S. Additional research is necessary to understand the cause of stroke differences in younger adults, which could guide prevention and treatment.

The study authors suggest sex-related differences for stroke risk among women ages 25-44 may be due to pregnancy, oral contraceptives, migraine headaches, autoimmune disorders, such as Lupus, and higher estrogen levels. Estrogen, a female sex hormone, is associated with a reduced risk for heart disease, but not for stroke.

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